تاریخچه حسابداری و انتقال به سرمایه داری در انگلستان
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 25, Issues 4–5, May 2000, Pages 327–381
An earlier paper (Part one) argued that to appreciate the social significance of accounting today we must understand its ideas and techniques as products and producers of history. It explained the importance of Weber and Marx's theories of the transition to capitalism to historians of accounting. Weber's use of accounting as an ideal-typical representation of calculative mentalities enabled him to avoid economic determinism. However, he presupposed the appearance of the capitalist ‘spirit’, and his understanding of modern accounting was inferior to Marx's. The paper argued that translating Marx's theory into a history of accounting makes it testable. The theory includes class conflict in trade and in agriculture, and calculative mentalities, as prime movers. It says the calculative mentality of modern capitalism, the maximization of the rate of return on capital employed in production, emerged from the historical interaction of capitalistic mentalities in agriculture and trade. From the middle of the sixteenth century landed and mercantile wealth pooled their capital in international trade. Following social conflict culminating in the bourgeois revolution of the mid-seventeenth century, the rate of return on capital became the dominant economic ethic. Capital from international trade flowed back onto the land, bringing with it the capitalistic rate of return mentality. Harnessing this to capitalistic farming produced the modern capitalist mentality. In this paper I argue that the history of accounting during the English agricultural, commercial, and bourgeois revolutions, is consistent with this theory. The paper examines evidence from farmers' accounts from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century and agricultural texts and literature, and evidence on merchant accounting from the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The centrepiece is a case study of the development of accounting in the English East India Company from 1600 to 1657. The paper concludes by outlining the importance of accounting history and the need for archival research.
To grasp the social meaning of accounting we must engage with the “important theoretical and historical debates which have traversed the social sciences” (Miller & O’Leary, 1987). In these engagements, not only may we understand more of modern accounting, but its historians may contribute to our understanding of social history. In social history no theme has been more significant than the question of ‘modernity’,1 and no theory of social change has aroused more controversy than Marx's explanation of the transition from feudalism to capitalism in England. Only Marxists debated this in the nineteenth century. However, following the publication of Moderne Kapitalismus by Sombart in 1902, and Weber's articles on The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1905, the words feudalism and capitalism became common currency among historians and sociologists. As Holton says, they “became important reference points in a wide-ranging debate over the origins of modern Western society, a debate in which Marxists and non-Marxists alike increasingly came to think of capitalism as the phenomenon whose historical appearance was to be explained” (Holton, 1985, pp. 12–13). There is still no agreement as to precisely what these words mean. Contributors to the transition debate have used three theoretical approaches. Neo-classical economics in the tradition of Adam Smith; Marx's idea of the mode of production; and Weber and Sombart's idea of calculative mentality. No approach commands general support, and there has been no synthesis. The aim of this paper is to use Weber's link between calculative mentalities and accounting to explain Marx's theory of the transition to capitalism as a history of accounting.2 Part Two (Bryer, in press-c) argues that Marx's theory is consistent with the accounting evidence available. From the perspective of this paper, implicitly or explicitly all explanations of the differences between past and current accounting presume a theory of the transition to modern capitalism. Theoretically, if not always in practice, ‘traditional’ historians of accounting mirror neo-classical economic explanations of the transition (Miller and Napier, 1991 and Napier, 1998). Their central problem is explaining the apparently long delay in England from charge and discharge accounting in the thirteenth century to the general appearance of double entry bookkeeping and cost accounting during the industrial revolution. Explicitly or implicitly traditionalists explain the apparently slow evolution of accounting, followed by an apparently sudden change, by the absence or presence of economic ‘pressures’ from an ‘environment’ operating on presumed, transcendental ‘economic needs’ (Carnagie and Napier, 1996 and Hipwood, 1987). Where traditionalists are not teleological, their failure to specify the social mechanisms behind accounting change reduces their explanations to naive functionalism (Bryer, 1998a, Bryer, 1998b and Hipwood, 1987). In short, we cannot use the traditional approach to write “a history of the emergence of accounting as it now is” (Hopwood, p. 211).3 To avoid these problems, historians of accounting have increasingly turned to the work of philosophers, sociologists and historians for models and approaches to help uncover accounting as a social reality. The work of Michel Foucault in particular has inspired some important contributions (Napier, 1989). However, while his approach addresses the question of social meaning, its totalising discourses and its disdain for the material world undermine its potential contribution to a history of accounting change (Armstrong, 1994 and Neimark, 1994). Furthermore, Foucault's framework is not an obvious choice for the historian who seeks to implicate accounting in broad social changes. Unlike Marx and Weber, to whom Foucault is otherwise indebted, global social processes are of no concern (Smart, 1983 and Smart, 1985). His view that economics is an empirical science (e.g. Foucault, 1970, p. 345) also undermines the applicability of his approach to accounting. Although he does not say what he means by economics, it is likely that Foucault included Marx's political economy.4 Like Marx, he identified its object as labour and production. He openly accepted “it is not possible at the present time to write a history without using a whole range of concepts directly or indirectly linked with Marx's thought” (Foucault, 1980, p. 53). He levelled his criticisms at Marxists rather than Marx.5 If he includes Marx's political economy within economics, and if, as I argue here and elsewhere, it provides a plausible theoretical foundation for accounting, then we should not try to understand it as one of Foucault's inherently subjective and unsystematic ‘human sciences’.6 Many historians of accounting would agree that, as Foucault has argued for other social practices, we must understand accounting in its social context as an instrument of power and domination. However, the above reading of Foucault suggests that we should not, as Carnegie and Napier put it, necessarily only perceive “accounting as one social practice among many” (Carnegie & Napier, 1996, p. 7). From the perspective developed here, accounting is a practice whose social foundations are objective and systematic (Bryer, 1998a, Bryer, 1998b, Bryer, 1999a and Bryer, 1999b). It is, therefore, amenable to empirical scientific inquiry in Foucault's sense. Only Hoskin and Macve (1986) try to explain the transition to modern accounting using Foucault's approach. It offers, they say, a coherent explanation of the appearance of “full-scale accounting…in…refined single-entry systems like charge-discharge, and especially in the new double-entry systems (in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries” (Hoskin & Macve, p. 107). At the same time, it explains why double-entry and cost accounting remain “sporadically used until the nineteenth century” (Hoskin & Macve, p. 107). Hoskin and Macve accept the traditional view that, as they put it, there was a “long delay” in the development of the “modern discursive obsessions with two now familiar constructs: accountability and profitability” (pp. 108, 123). They explain “the much later social development of a discourse of accountancy…in the nineteenth century” (Hoskin & Macve, p. 106) by the invention of a new disciplinary technology in education. Until then, they say, these two constructs were “absent” (Hoskin & Macve, pp. 123, 124). The history of accounting advanced here undermines the traditional chronology and, therefore, Hoskin and Macve's explanation. It shows the obsessions of modern accounting emerged over a much longer period of transition through intermediate forms. Their roots lie in the obsessions of their parents — feudal lords and merchants. Their history embraces the social upheavals in agriculture from the end of the fourteenth century; the commercial revolution of the sixteenth century; the civil wars in the mid-seventeenth century; and the agrarian revolution that followed. The modern obsessions with profitability and accountability did not suddenly appear in the nineteenth century. Part Two (Bryer, in press-c) shows they appeared during the early seventeenth century, and argues they became firmly established in the discourse of the English bourgeoisie from the middle of that century.7 Missing from the accounting literature is engagement with the historical theories of Weber and Marx. Starting to fill this gap is the primary purpose of this paper. The well-known ‘Weber-Sombart' debate promoted by Yamey (1949) almost ignores Weber.8 Modern scholars only rarely highlight that accounting and its history are central to his work (see, for example, Burchell, CLubb, Hopwood, Hughes and Nahapiet, 1980 and Miller and Napier, 1991). He is of relevance to all historians of accounting who eschew economic determination; all those who “regard accounting as predominantly a cultural phenomenon rather than a technique” (Carnegie & Napier, 1996, p. 16). The predominant basis of social action in his sociology is economic culture, his ‘sociological categories of economic action’, or calculative mentalities.9 His history of modern capitalism is a history of the transition from a pre-capitalist calculative mentality of ‘budgeting’ to that of ‘profit-making activity’. His “rationality theme…provides the focal point for all Weber's socio-historical interests” (Cohen, 1981, p. XVIII).10 Central to this theme is “a form of monetary accounting which is peculiar to rational economic profit-making; namely, ‘capital accounting’…” (Weber, 1947, p. 191). Capital accounting provides the concrete foundation for both elements of Weber's idea that modern capitalism has a calculative mentality embodied in the ‘economic culture’ of capitalist enterprises, and the ‘spirit’ of their entrepreneurs. Weber traces the origin of the spirit of capitalism to the unintended consequence of certain aspects of Protestant teaching, particularly its unique idea of the calling — that success in earthly work is visible evidence of salvation. The Protestant ethic of diligent and methodical labour, of frugality and improvement is, Weber argues, appropriated by pre-modern capitalists as their organising principle, production for profit. Weber claims the Protestant ethic has an ‘elective affinity’ with the spirit of modern capitalism.11 Weber says there is an affinity between the continuous psychological pressure exerted by the Protestant calling, with its ‘moral accounting’ by reference to earthly works, and the defining feature of modern capitalism, the rational organisation of labour in production. Although only an elective affinity, Weber clearly implies that “the Protestant ethic was in some sense responsible for the spirit, then the form of capitalism” (MacKinnon, 1993, p. 211). Weber, however, provides us with no theoretical or historical link. He contents himself with the assertion that Calvinism activated the spirit of modern capitalism and that capitalists appeared when the economic preconditions (free wage labour, technology, commercial law, trade, etc.) were also present. Sociologists recognise this is the most important yet the weakest and least examined element in Weber's argument (Marshall, 1991, pp. 192–193). Some have accepted that accounting could be a prime source of evidence of the calculative mentalities of sixteenth and seventeenth century businessmen. For example, as Holton says, “evidence of systematic expansionism linked to book-keeping is…consistent with Weber's argument about more modern forms of the spirit of capitalism” (1985, p. 116). The paper explores Weber's capital accounting in some depth. Given its central role in his sociology it is “of great importance to understand what is involved in this phenomenon”, as Cohen says (1981, p. XXXIII). Weber claimed his sociological categories of economic action “entirely avoid the controversial concept of value” (1947, p. 158). He presumably meant Marx's labour theory of value, as Weber's only criticism of neo-classical economics was the presumed self-evidence of its assumptions.12 His objective was to reconceptualise neo-classical economic action as a system of rational social action. However, Weber avoids labour value by embracing the neo-classical idea of value. His understanding of rational capital accounting turns out to be a version of economic income accounting. This conclusion undermines the claim by Weberians, that, by providing a cultural explanation of capitalism, he delivered a fatal blow to Marx. As Weber put it, “the view of historical materialism, frequently espoused, that the economic is in some sense the ultimate point in the chain of causes is completely finished as a scientific proposition” (quoted in Marshall, 1982, p. 151).13 I argue that Weber's misunderstanding of modern accounting renders his theory irrelevant, either as a critique of Marx or as an explanation of the economic culture or spirit of capitalism. The reluctance of accounting historians to engage with Marx is understandable given the apparently insuperable obstacles, particularly his supposed economic determinism (e.g. Hoskin, 1994 and Keenan, 1998). Weberians also criticise Marx's explanation for ignoring subjective human meaning, for Weber the foundation of all social action (Weber, 1968, p. 4). For example, Holton's view:[O]ne of the most serious consequences of the Marxist theory of society has been to treat the emergence of ‘capitalism’ on the level of culture and ‘mentalities’ as relatively unproblematic. In this way rational economic man, while seen as a historical product, is nonetheless interpreted as the product, or at best facilitator of an already pre-existent material process of capitalist development. For since ‘ideas’ are viewed as but a reflex rationalisation of a material system, they cannot pre-date the existence of such a system (1985, p. 101).
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The paper has argued that historians of accounting have much to gain from an engagement with Weber and Marx's theories of the transition to capitalism. We found that although the accounting focus of Weber is explicit, and his idea of calculative mentality avoids economic determinism, his vision of capital accounting is a dim and distorted reflection of reality. While accounting is usually only implicit in Marx, its recognition also allows him to avoid determinism, and his vision is richly realistic. Recognising the accounting in Marx allowed us to interrogate his historical writings for his explanation of the transition. According to Marx's theory the calculative mentality of modern capitalism appears in a historical process, unique to England, where in the sixteenth century merchant capital was pooled with capital derived from a formally capitalistic agriculture. Investment of surpluses from socialised and social capital from overseas trade in agriculture followed the bourgeois revolution of the mid-seventeenth century. This revolution establishes the demand for an equal return for equal capital as the dominant economic ethic. In this historical process, the rate of return mentality combines with the mentality of maximizing surplus labour within production, to produce the modern capitalist mentality, that pursues the maximum rate of return on capital employed in production. When we understand Marx's explanation of the transition as a history of accounting, it is not the deus ex machina many have claimed (see: Holton, 1985 and Martin, 1983). Furthermore, it is open to historical investigation. Marx's theory does not posit the pre-existence of modern capitalism — either as commerce or exchange relations or wage labour, or as a calculative mentality — as an external driving force in the dissolution of the feudal mode of production. Rather, Marx explains capitalism as the outcome of the pursuit of monetary wealth within feudalism — the “historic process is not the product of capital but the presupposition for it” (Marx, 1973, p. 505). This interpretation contradicts the common view that “the identification of the dissolution of feudalism with the necessary rise of capitalism…[was] a view which Marx was well known for” (Tribe, 1978, p. 15). The question, of course, is the evidence. To what extent does the history of accounting support Marx's theory? Part Two (Bryer, in press-c) tests his theory against the available evidence. It outlines social histories of accounting for the agricultural, commercial and bourgeois revolutions, and shows they are consistent with Marx's theory of the transition. The paper calls for extensive archival research.